New beginnings

If asked what would be their dream job, working in the media or the computer games industry would probably be high on the list for many graduates.

Both careers offer the opportunity to combine a passion with a profession and the potential rewards are enormous.

But with popularity comes competition, and the need to have the edge and stand out in a crowd is a challenge facing today’s job hunters.

The University of Wolverhampton recognises the need to tick every box on an employer’s wish list. They want academic knowledge and professional skills in areas relevant to their industry, and they also want practical experience.

That’s why two new Institutes at the University are striving to enhance students’ employability and create new opportunities with regional, national and international businesses.

The Institute of Media Arts and the Institute of Gaming and Animation were officially launched at a reception attended by students, graduates, academics and industry experts.

 Both Institutes seek to create links with businesses that will benefit both the employers and the students. They also draw together experts from different areas of the University to work on innovative projects and applied research.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline Gipps, says: “We are delighted to have launched the two new Institutes, which will enhance the student experience and create new opportunities to work with industry experts. The courses we offer in these subjects are innovative and engaging, and provide our students with the necessary skills and experience to start a career in these important and growing industries.”

Introducing … The Institute of Gaming and Animation

The Institute of Gaming and Animation (IGA) is led by its Director, Dr Stuart Slater.

Bringing together experts from the School of Art & Design and the School of Technology, the IGA was formed to meet demands from industry to deliver cutting edge technology and design solutions.

Academics from both Schools have worked with industry leaders on innovative curriculum development to ensure students on undergraduate courses graduate with skills relevant to the demands of the profession.

The Institute also offers bespoke training and works with regional, national and European partners on innovative projects and applied research. In addition, the IGA has a thriving Games Society which has seen students exhibit their projects at high profile events such as The Gadget Show Live.

Graduates have also worked on over 24 Nintendo Wii games and popular titles such as Resident Evil: Degeneration and Grand Theft Auto: the Lost and the Damned.

The IGA has links with industry giants like Microsoft and Epic, giving students access to leading experts in the field.

At the launch, Stuart recognised the economic challenges facing the gaming industry but highlighted that there are opportunities for the bright young stars of tomorrow.

“The University has shown over a continued period that if there is an opportunity for our staff and students to innovate, they will always hold their own.

“The support from University staff, firstly in the inception of the Institute and then changes to the curriculum and the refocusing of our business development, means that the students of the future can have optimism.”

He was joined at the event by Nick Davies, a graduate of the University who has gone on to become a Senior Artificial Intelligence (AI) Engineer at CCP Games, who said he still used the skills and ideas he learnt while studying in Wolverhampton in his career today.

David Burden, from Daden Limited which has worked with Stuart on some innovative projects already, also outlined the benefits of collaboration between universities and businesses.

Presenting… The Institute of Media Arts

Sam Hope is the Director of the Institute of Media Arts (IMA), which aims to be a centre of excellence incorporating expertise from the School of Art & Design and the School of Law, Social Sciences and Communications.

Academics from both Schools have worked with industry leaders on innovative curriculum development to ensure students on undergraduate courses graduate with skills relevant to the demands of the profession.

 By developing undergraduate and postgraduate courses that are industry focused, the Institute aims to produce graduates who will shape the creative industries.

Partnerships with the media industry, including the BBC, help to boost student placement opportunities in a profession that demands work experience on every applicant’s CV.

The Institute also offers bespoke training/knowledge transfer and works with regional, national and international partners on innovative projects and applied research.

The IMA is about to embark on a prestigious Leonardo da Vinci European project ‘Sign Media’ and will be leading a team of partners from Austria, Italy and the UK to create an innovative digital media learning tool for Deaf media professionals across Europe.

The project has won a funding grant of 367,000 Euros across two years and brings together the expertise of academics from the School of Law Social Sciences and Communications Deaf Studies and the School of Art & Design’s Film and Video Production.

Another strand of the Institute’s remit involves outreach work with school pupils and young people. An excellent example of this was the Be Heard! Project, which was a magazine-style radio programme produced by blind and partially sighted people aged between 13 and 25.

With support from Wolverhampton Community Radio (WCR FM) and media experts at the University, they developed the content for a range of features. The final production included the subjects of audio description for visually impaired people, owning a guide dog, the meaning of dreams, a friendship poem, a passion for football and a school visit.

Speaking at the launch, Sam focused on the power of digital media, the importance of content creation, new technologies and change – to both the economic climate and the media industry itself, how this impacts on those wishing to embark on a career in this exciting arena and how the IMA can help business by providing top flight digital media expertise and project management regionally, nationally and internationally.

“As technology changes we need to embrace those changes but still nurture and recognise the value of the core skills and processes needed to produce content and the importance of fresh thinkers.”

She added “With difficult economic times ahead there will no doubt be many changes for both the Creative and Media Sectors and Higher Education, however with change comes opportunity, innovation, creativity and enterprise – And at the IMA we will be doing exactly that by embracing future changes and be champions of change.”

Sam thanked University staff for their hard work and support in developing the Institute, the changes to the curriculum, for the business development successes and community outreach programmes.

The final say: employers

The keynote speaker at the launch was Karen Price, Chief Executive of e-skills and a recent recipient of an honorary degree from the University. e-skills is the employerled Sector Skills Council for Business and Information Technology.

Karen shared her insights on collaboration between universities and businesses, highlighting the fact employers recognise the importance of higher education in shaping the talent pool.

She also emphasised the benefits of such links for the professional development of people who are already on the payroll.

As someone who knows the minds, desires and aspirations of today’s employers, Karen is well aware of the impact well-equipped graduates can make to a business.

She says: “I wish both Institutes every success. They are both specialising in high growth areas of the economy and both bring businesses closer to the University, and this means we are supporting the talent pool for both sectors.”

The world of work is changing and evolving all the time, and there are challenges for all sectors. Through the new Institutes, the University of Wolverhampton is striving to produce graduates who are ahead of the game.